US Supreme Court strikes down New York gun law

High court's ruling was handed down in spite of recent series of mass shootings

The US Supreme Court struck down a restrictive New York gun law in a victory for gun rights advocates. AFP
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The US Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York state law putting limits on carrying concealed handguns in public, in a victory for gun rights advocates as the country reels from deadly mass shootings.

The 6-3 ruling, with all conservative justices in the majority, ruled that the state's law breached a person's Second Amendment right to "possess and carry” firearms in cases of self-defence “outside the home”.

President Joe Biden said he was "deeply disappointed" in the ruling and that it "should deeply trouble us all".

"In the wake of the horrific attacks in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as the daily acts of gun violence that do not make national headlines, we must do more as a society — not less — to protect our fellow Americans," Mr Biden said.

The justices overturned a lower-court ruling throwing out a challenge to the law by two gun owners and the New York affiliate of the National Rifle Association, an influential gun rights group closely aligned with conservatives.

“Petitioners Brandon Koch and Robert Nash are adult, law-abiding New York residents who both applied for unrestricted licences to carry a handgun in public based on their generalised interest in self-defence,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote.

The New York law, first passed in 1913, said a person must have a “proper cause” to apply for a concealed carry licence.

California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey have similar laws that could now be challenged.

Vice President Kamala Harris said the Supreme Court's ruling "defies logic" after the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde.

The high court's decision leaves Congress to reckon with how to properly address gun violence.

"It is outrageous that, at a moment of national reckoning on gun violence, the Supreme Court has recklessly struck down a New York law that limits those who can carry concealed weapons," said New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

Ms Hochul said the state was reviewing its options in response to the ruling, including calling a special session of the state legislature.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the city was prepared to "lead by example" in responding to the Supreme Court's decision.

In delivering the court's minority opinion, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer gave the Buffalo and Uvalde massacres as recent examples of rising gun violence in the country.

“Many states have tried to address some of the dangers of gun violence just described by passing laws that limit, in various ways, who may purchase, carry, or use firearms of different kinds. The court today severely burdens states’ efforts to do so,” he wrote.

In response to Mr Breyer's dissent, Justice Samuel Alito cast doubt on the idea that concealed carry laws would prevent mass shootings such as the one in Buffalo.

"The New York law at issue in this case obviously did not stop that perpetrator," Mr Alito wrote.

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Members of Congress on Thursday were rushing to pass the first gun-control legislation in decades.

The bipartisan deal would support “red flag” laws, keeping firearms away from people who could do harm to themselves or others.

But the bill would not raise the minimum age to buy automatic assault weapons to 21 from 18.

The teenage gunmen in Buffalo and Uvalde both used assault-style rifles.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: June 23, 2022, 8:59 PM